UK scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda particularly harmful for LGBTQ+ migrants

The plan to relocate asylum seekers arriving in the UK to Rwanda could have concerning implications for LGBTQ+ people.

Boris Johnson speaking. He just announced a new Rwanda scheme particularly harmful for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.
Image: 10 Downing Street, OGL 3 , via Wikimedia Commons



On April 14, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a controversial plan to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda. Activists and charities have condemned the Rwanda scheme saying it could be particularly harmful to LGBTQ+ migrants seeking asylum in the UK.

Apparently, the new trial scheme would mostly be restricted to male asylum seekers arriving in the UK, who will be sent to Rwanda by the British government and then put through an asylum process at the end of which, if successful, they will be granted long-term accommodation in the country.

In a speech in Kent, Boris Johnson called this plan an “innovative approach, driven by our shared humanitarian impulse and made possible by Brexit freedoms,” and he added that the UK will be giving Rwanda the help needed to resettle “tens of thousands of people in the years ahead”. 

During a conference in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the plan was part of a “joint new migration and economic development partnership,” and that the UK is “making substantial investments in the economic development of Rwanda.”

Many human rights and refugee organisations have expressed their concerns about this plan. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) urged Rwanda and the UK to reconsider the plan, expressing their opposition to arrangements that transfer refugees to countries where there are no sufficient standards and safeguards to ensure their safety.

The organisation Human Rights Watch issued a statement in which they voice their opposition to the plan with the following words: “Rwanda’s appalling human rights record is well documented.” The statement goes on to say: “Rwanda has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents. In fact, the UK directly raised its concerns about respect for human rights with Rwanda, and grants asylum to Rwandans who have fled the country, including four just last year”.

The decision to send asylum seekers to Rwanda under the new scheme could have particularly harmful implications in the case of LGBTQ+ people. Although homosexuality is not illegal in the country, LGBTQ+ people constantly experience discrimination and often face arrest because of a law that is intended to uphold “good morals”. 

Sonia Lenegan, the Legal and Policy Director of the LGBTQ+ group Rainbow Migration, commented on the Rwanda scheme by saying: “We know that in Rwanda it is not easy for LGBTQI+ people to be open due to the discrimination and abuse they experience, and so it is extremely difficult to see how anyone in that situation will be able to make an asylum claim based on the fact that they are LGBTQI+, while also having to hide who they are”.

“Any LGBTQI+ person who is not prepared to stay in that situation in Rwanda, and who does want to live openly and safely, is instead likely to be pushed into making further dangerous journeys” she added.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.

During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.

GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.